Swells, The Knitts, Channel, The Hollow Fortyfives At The Troubadour, Tuesday March 13th 2018
When four bands perform on a Tuesday night at the legendary Troubadour in Los Angeles, it shouldn’t matter if it is a week night. The all-age show was presented by Gravity Bookings and I arrived in the middle of the set of Swells, a band from North Hollywood, which was making more than a few girls dance in front of the stage. The band had dynamism and catchy summery tunes with a sophisticated ensemble including a glittery keyboard and a sexy saxophone. One of their fast tempo songs had a sort of chaotic ska rhythm, while frontman and singer Matty Gregg was singing with the determination of a future rock star. If they call themselves surf/punk/rock, their sound was quite poppy overall with a future singalong called ‘Dream Girl’.
The Knitts were next with a very sweet sound and plenty of fierce action. They were blending sounds and styles, with a raucous rock attitude, a few Latino rhythms thrown in the mix and an almost girl-group heart, thanks to singer Justin Volkens’ strong and heartfelt vocals. They seemed to envision a show like a playful party where everyone moves freely and bang his or her head, when everyone has a great time during a succession of explosive guitars-drums battles and enough youthful ooo-ooos to warm up the room and make you raise your arms in the air. The Knitts were simply a lot of fun, they were a combination of rebellion and tenderness, with the help of an occasional ukulele, bringing as much sweetness as an early Shins song, while Volkens made a few victorious rooster-like screams as Joe Strummer used to do.
Fullerton band Channel was a change of pace, with a much darker sound, a very loud and fuzzy guitar work and some dominant synth-electronic parts. Singer Caleb Palomo was going into some dark post-punk territory with theatricality, while their guitarist was playing a whole show by himself on the right stage of the stage. With the addition of a keyboard, the songs were stretching into layered fuzz and somber reverb, haunted by gloomy laments, and their last song almost sounded as if The Strokes were crashing into a Joy Division song… I am not sure if my description makes sense but there may not be another occasion to listen to them because, after a self-titled debut on Burger Records released on July 11, 2016, this Troubadour show was announced as their last show!
The night was actually a record release party for Long Beach’s owns, The Hollow Fortyfives, who were consequently headlining the night with their brand of surf-psychedelic sensibility. The trio had a somewhat ‘60s-inspired booming and upbeat garage rock sound with head-bouncing tempos and strong grooves, a bit similar to the Allah-Las’signature sound. The three of them, guitarist Lucas Renberg, bassist Brett Incardone and drummer Travis Corsaut, were alternatively singing and often harmonizing together, but after a few songs, the grooves faded a bit to let room for more dynamic powerchords, and a few songs even brought the Kinks to mind.
Their first recordings were released by Burger Records subsidiary Wiener Records and local Long Beach label Leg Records, but they were celebrating their new full-length album appropriately called ‘Strange Times’, because we all know that we are living very strange times. The Californian power trio ended with a classic, ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’, probably well aware that Tom Petty himself is a big part of the Troubadour history.